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Journeying through Grief as a Couple

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Journeying through Grief as a Couple


Each person has his or her own unique way of grieving. This is also true for couples who are grieving the same loss. The loss of a child may be considered the most difficult, the loss of a spouse is also heartbreaking, and losing an aging parent is tough even when expected. Furthermore, the death of a step-child or an ex-spouse may have an impact on you either in unexpected ways or have very little impact on one of you at all.


The Grieving Process in Marriage

It is not uncommon for couples to evaluate each other’s grieving process based on his or her own personal style of grieving. Each one expects the other one to behave just like he/she does. A partner who cries expects the other one to cry also. If the husband prefers not to talk, he thinks there is no need for the wife to talk either. Behind this pressure to conform is the unspoken assumption that a spouse’s grief will be validated by how the other spouse grieves.

Grieving as a couple is conditioned by several factors. Each of the partner’s reactions will vary depending on their individual personality, their previous experiences, their cultural role inherited from their own families, the person who passed, the manner of death, and the unique relationship one had with the person who passed. The intensity of this shared grief can exhaust couples both physically and emotionally. While couples share their bereavement, the process for each one becomes internalized that they just do not have the energy to care enough to let their relationship work.

It does not mean, though, that affection is gone during the bereavement process, only the dynamics and enthusiasm. Some couples are simply blinded by their own pain and loss of energy, which should not be the case. In truth, this untimely difficulty can be transformed into a rich opportunity for growth and a closer bond between couples. For others, however, the loss of a beloved, especially of a child, becomes the beginning of a downhill spiral for their marriage. If you are journeying through grief as a couple, know that you cannot only be successful, but also thrive if both of you commit to prioritize your relationship during this sad and difficult time.


His Grief, Her Grief


Couples who share the same grief do not necessarily grieve in the same way. They may initially seem to grieve together, but later tend to move on at different rates with different feelings. At the same time, they must tackle their partner’s grief while grieving in their own. One must consider the partner’s grief since he or she is experiencing the same intense emotional crisis. The differences in how partners grieve may cause conflict in the relationship. Even if you struggle together and separately, it can be extremely difficult to reach out and help each other during this time.


Grief for men is a very private matter. Masculine grieving is often invisible, misunderstood and uncharacteristic. They do not express their feelings openly to subscribe to the male model of strength and stability. Man’s natural reaction to deflect the pain felt is to do something practical, not only to feel better, but to protect himself from being shamed while in a vulnerable condition. Men seem to recover from grief faster than women. They are able to bounce back to optimal functioning, and the deeply felt loss is barely visible.


On the other hand, women need to express their feelings and are more likely to share them. Unlike men, they seek out comfort and support to help them work through their grief. When women grieve it emphasizes connection instead of disengagement and separation. As the primary caregiver, they may feel responsible for not preventing the death or that they may somehow be responsible. Women’s average reaction may take longer and may have greater behavioral or emotional health consequences, such as depression, guilt, and PTSD.


Because of the difference in how men and women grieve it can be more challenging to understand how the grief experience is expressed by the other gender. Women may interpret the lack of tears and silence as lack of caring. Perhaps women may not see the occasions when men do cry like them, or feel the pain as much as they do, but men still hurt, and they do grieve.

Men may attempt to offer distractions to take away their partner’s hurt, but they may be unwittingly denying her the ability to express her feelings in a safe space. It can be difficult to be with a spouse who cries a lot and expresses her feelings, but it could be her natural way of processing grief. Sometimes, a partner may inflict pain to be sure the other is feeling their pain as well. Sarcasm, accusations, and emotional detachment can become a means of grieving in a cruel way.


Surviving Grief as a Shared Journey

Your relationship may have survived and endured all the “cracks” that threatened it. With grief, however, your ability to work through these “rough spots” may be diminished. While grieving is usually understood as a personal matter, a couple grieving over the same loss is a shared matter. Even in grief, your relationship needs more attention than ever and should not be allowed to deteriorate. Bereavement can be a testing time to prove the strength of your marital bond.

Like other couples, it is your spouse, and not somebody else, who witnesses the times when you grieve, who has the most opportunity to offer understanding and comfort you about your thoughts and feelings in your grief, and who has the most impact on how you express and face your sorrow. It is with your partner that you have greater chances of overcoming your emotions and organizing your activities to move on.

Both of you share the same relationship with the one who is gone, and each of you has witnessed the other’s relationship with the departed. Each of you know each other the best, and each of you may be the only person the other is likely to spend time with during this difficult time. If you journey through grief individually and take separate paths, your relationship may be in jeopardy along the way. At the end of your grieving journey, your marriage can be another shattering loss.

Your partner can be your most trusted ally during this difficult time, but it is unfair to expect full emotional support when he or she is also reeling from their own grief. Talking about your bereavement with others allows both of you the space to confront your own feelings and emotions. If your grief becomes too complicated so that you are already feeling anger, bitterness, turning to substance abuse, along with other physical symptoms, then you should seek professional couples counseling services for grieving couples. Frequent arguments and the use of insults or sarcasm are among the troubling signs that your marriage could be grieving and needs help.

An experienced and caring marriage counselor/therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC can offer the right kind of support to help you and your spouse alleviate the pain of your loss more effectively and eventually come to terms with it without there being any further damage to your relationship. Regardless of your grieving style, the right fit professional independently contracted with CCS – Pinehurst, NC will work with you to process your grief as a shared journey for you and your spouse. The journey may be difficult, but with help, you do not have to go through it alone. Call now to schedule an appointment.

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC

Counties: Moore county, NC, Lee County, Hoke County, Chatham County

Areas: Pinehurst NC, West End NC, Taylortown NC, Seven Lakes NC, Eagle Springs NC, Jackson Springs NC, Foxfire NC, Candor NC, Norman NC, Ellerbe NC, Rockingham NC

Zip Codes: 27281, 27376, 28315, 28347, 28350, 28373, 28374, 28387, 28388, 28394

Kelly ErkenBrack, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 3+) Children, Teens, Adults, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Loss, Mood Disorders, Trauma, Adjustments and Life Transitions, ADHD, Behavioral Issues, Parenting, Relationship Concerns, Self Esteem
Insurance: BCBSTricare Prime/Select, Medicare and Cash
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Location: Pinehurst, NC

Robin Caswell, MSW, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 5+), Individuals, Adults, Anxiety, Depression, Grief, Loss, ADHD, ODD, Trauma/PTSD, LGBTQ, Self-Harm, Military Family Life, Mood Disorders, OCD, Phobias
Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare and Cash
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Location: Pinehurst, NC

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Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC

45 Dowd Circle Suite 5
PinehurstNC 28374

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Fayetteville, NC 28311